Model of the Anne Frank House. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Allyship and the Anne Frank question

I was watching a TikTok video by Texas artist Soren Pendragon castigating those who claim to be allies of the LGBTQ+ community, but they back away at the slightest threat (à la Target). He describes them as those who fly the Pride flag 1/12 of the year and go back to their lives, while the LGBTQ+ community has to deal with attacks and repressive legislation all year.

I completely agree with Soren. As I wrote last year, I don’t have the right to declare myself an ally. The people in those communities know who is truly on their side and who isn’t. But his video got me thinking about Anne Frank.

When I first learned about the Holocaust in school (back when they could teach about the Holocaust, and everyone agreed Nazis were evil), we read Anne Frank’s diary and learned how she and her family were hidden by employees at her father’s company. My teacher asked, “If you lived during Anne Frank’s time, would you have hidden her and her family?” The answer was an emphatic “Yes!” We all knew it was worth any danger to do what was morally right.

What we didn’t know was what an easy question it was to answer at the time. We knew the outcome where those who tried to protect the Franks would eventually be liberated and hailed as heroes. And we believed such a thing would never happen in America. “Would you have hidden Anne Frank?” was a hypothetical question.

It isn’t a hypothetical question anymore.

If a family with a trans child asks if they can stay at your house for a while because they’re fleeing a state where they can’t get her gender-affirming care, would you open the door for them?

If you are eating at a restaurant, and a white patron explodes at the young and diverse staff, throwing items off the counter and threatening them with racial slurs, what would you do?

If you are a doctor who has a dying patient, and the only way to save her life is to perform an abortion even if it would land you in prison, would you do it?

These are situations we are facing every day.

We must remember the incredible danger the people who hid Anne Frank and her family put themselves in. They knew if they were caught, they would be arrested and face the same punishment as the Franks, if not worse. They also realized there might be no escape from the Nazis. Hitler’s defeat was inevitable in hindsight, but it was far from assured during the war. Life in wartime was dangerous enough. The Franks’ protectors would have increased their chance of survival by turning her family away. But they chose to hide them, even if it meant certain death.

This is the Anne Frank question all of us face today. Several states are under the thumb of tyrannical politicians. And if they get their way, that repression will spread across the country. Voting might not save us from the machinations of a corrupt Supreme Court, political maneuvering by deluded Trump cultists, and racists and homophobes who are tired of waiting for an excuse to get violent. We might face the same type of life-and-death moral question as Otto Frank’s employees.

Would you have hidden Anne Frank and her family? What about the same-sex couple down the street?